2017-18 US Youth Soccer National League Boys resume play in Orlando, Fla.
Day 1 of 3 complete
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ORLANDO, Fla. (Dec. 28, 2017) — The 2017-18 US Youth Soccer National League season resumed league play Thursday, as half of the boys teams in the 15U through 18U age groups competed at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla., alongside the Disney Soccer Showcase.
The National League provides an avenue for teams to play in meaningful matches against top competition from across the country for continued development and opportunities for exposure at the national team, collegiate and professional levels. In addition to recruiting opportunities, the top finishers from each division will earn a ticket to the 2018 US Youth Soccer National Championships, making each match valuable to the teams’ fate as it could make or break their chance at competing for the National Championship.
The battle for positioning in the standings remains close, and there is still very little clarity at the top of most of the divisions. Thursday saw no division titles clinched, but several teams made important jumps in the standings by securing three points with wins.
In the 15U age group, which sends the top two teams from each division to Nationals, CFJ City 2003 Pre-Academy (IL) picked up a key victory. CFJ coach Nate Downing said his players are well aware of what’s on the line when they step on the field.
“The top two spots — that’s what I keep [emphasizing] to the team. It gets you into Nationals,” Downing said. “It’s epic. That’s everything. That’s what we’re playing for. That’s what we down here for, and if we can get that done, it means we’ve done our job.”
However, Downing and the rest of the coaches and players in Florida know that it’s no easy task to finish on top of any National League division. The coach said his team is enjoying the challenges it is facing in its first year in the league.
“This is hands down the best competition that we’ve played in my two years of coaching these guys,” Downing said. “We play some pretty high-level soccer, and the National League has proven to be the best. We’re playing some of the best teams from each state.”
Following the boys weekend in Orlando, half of the girls teams in the 15U through 18U age groups will compete in their second and final event of the season Jan. 13-15 at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. The National League teams that do not compete in either of the Florida events will complete their season at the Players College Showcase in Las Vegas — with boys games held March 9-11 and girls games played March 16-18.
The National League features the top 256 teams in the 14U through 18U Boys and Girls age groups. With teams in each age group divided into eight-team divisions, each side has had to earn its place in the league through success in US Youth Soccer Regional Leagues and National Championship Series play.
The National League is an extension of the highly successful US Youth Soccer Regional Leagues (US Youth Soccer Eastern Regional League, Midwest Regional League, Southern Regional Premier League and Far West Regional League). The National League provides an avenue for teams to play in meaningful matches against top competition from across the country for continued development and opportunities for exposure at the national team, collegiate and professional levels.
National League action will continue Friday, Dec. 29, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. Complete standings, scores and schedules, including goal scorers and match information, can be found at the results page here. Click on the score of each game for more information.
Some highlights from Thursday’s matches…
By pulling away for a 4-2 win over Baltimore Celtic Premier (MD) on Thursday, CFJ City 2003 Pre-Academy (IL) moved to the top of the standings in the 15U Blue Division. Baltimore grabbed an early lead on Kwaku Marfo-Sarbeng’s seventh-minute goal before Joshua Torres equalized for CFJ in the 25th minute. Soon after, Torres followed a teammate’s shot and placed the rebound into an open net to put the Illinois side in front. It took just three minutes for Baltimore to produce an equalizer, as Owen Anglin fired a shot into the net to make it 2-2. The frantic final minutes of the first half concluded when Christian Munoz hit a left-footed blast that flew inside the near post to give CFJ a 3-2 lead at the break. Torres capped the win by securing a hat trick in the final minute, as he opened up his body and slid a shot into the far corner — giving CFJ the 4-2 victory.
After going down early, OK Energy FC Central 03 (OK) stormed back to defeat Nationals Union 03 Black (MI), 4-1, and earn its fourth win in as many games to begin the season. It wasn’t an ideal start for OK Energy, as Enzo Sugameli notched a second-minute goal to put Nationals Union in front. However, Fernando Saldana equalized for Oklahoma later in the half and put the Energy in front in the 44th minute with his second goal of the game. David Meacham and Trindon Turner added insurance goals to help seal the 4-1 victory.
Defending National Champion Solar Chelsea Red 02 Stricker (TX-N) moved into first place in the 16U White Division with a shutout victory over Arlington SA 2002 Red (VA). The score line nearly remained unchanged in the opening half, but Solar grabbed a lead shortly before the break when Ethan Orozco beat the keeper in the 37th minute. The North Texas side registered a couple of quick insurance goals midway through the second half. Richard Garcia found the back of the net in the 63rd minute, and Riley O'Donnell recorded his fourth goal of the season just a minute later to secure the 3-0 win.
SC Waukesha 02 Blue (WI) moved within three points of the idle 16U Blue Division leaders with a 2-1 win over Takoma Park Friends United (MD) on Thursday. It took just two minutes for Nicholas Libesch to give Waukesha a 1-0 lead, but Angel Zelaya equalized for Takoma Park later in the half. Libesch put on a repeat performance in the second half, as he found the back of the net shortly after the restart to put his side back on top. Waukesha tried to seal the win with a late insurance goal, but the Takoma Park keeper made a series of point-blank saves in the 71st minute to keep his side in reach. However, the Waukesha defense held strong to secure the 2-1 victory.
In 17U White Division action, both OBGC Rangers Blue 2001 (MD) and KSA 01 Pro-Profile (GA) showed tremendous pace as they battled to a 1-1 draw. It didn’t take long for OBGC to create an advantage, as Justin Cook tallied a fifth-minute goal to put the Maryland side up, 1-0. KSA pushed back and earned a 38th-minute penalty kick, which Deedson Vixamar converted to send the game to the second half knotted at 1-1. Each side generated some half chances late in the game, and KSA had a chance to grab all three points in the final minute. However, OBGC keeper Gonzalo Bartoli Pinero lunged to his right to save a KSA free kick that was bound for the near post — preserving the 1-1 draw. Each team will be chasing Oklahoma Energy FC 01 Central (OK), which created some breathing room at the top of the group with another win on Thursday.
A late winner helped McLean Green 01 (VA) keep pace at the top of the 17U Red Division, as it came away with a 2-1 victory over Lobos Rush 01 Premier (TN). A 31st-minute strike by Nathan Rosen spotted McLean a lead that it held until early in the second half, when Will Pucek found the back of the net to equalize for Lobos. The Virginia side didn’t let the momentum swing too far out of its favor, and Rosen put McLean back in control with a strike in the 77th minute. That proved to be enough, as McLean held on to take the 2-1 win.
In an 18U Black Division matchup featuring two teams with points apiece in the standings, NCFC Elite 00 (NC) used a quick start to earn a 2-1 victory over Baltimore Bays 00 (MD). Gabriel Mercer opened the scoring for NCFC in just the second minute, and he doubled the team’s advantage with a brace after 13 minutes of play. It didn’t take long for Baltimore to cut into the North Carolina lead, as Ryan Belfiore found the back of the net in the 20th minute to make it 2-1. However, neither side managed to change the score line in the final 70 minutes of play, as the North Carolina side hung on to pick up a vital three points in the standings.
FC Dallas 00 Che (TX-N) moved within a couple points of the idle 18U Blue Division leaders with a 3-0 win on Thursday against BRYC Elite Academy (VA). FC Dallas grabbed a lead late in the first half when Dayton Crocker found the back of the net. Moments later, the BRYC keeper was sent off for a foul on an FC Dallas breakaway, and Angel Medel fired the ensuing free kick inside the right post to double the Dallas advantage. BRYC did well to hang around while playing down a man, but FC Dallas put the game away with an Issomalia Dosso strike in the 83rd minute.
Also of note in the 18U age group, Andrew Privett scored on a long free kick in stoppage time to help Baltimore Celtic SC 00 (MD) remain unbeaten and in control of the Red Division.
Keep up with the National League all season:
National League Home: USYouthSoccer.org/National_League
Schedule and results: http://tournaments.usyouthsoccer.org/events/2017-18-National-League/